Small businesses have edge with consumer trust

Americans trust small businesses. In fact, they are three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business, according to a recent Gallup poll. With 68% percent (up 1% from 2015) of U.S. adults report having "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in small business, it gives them a huge edge over big business which dipped to 18% (down 3% from last year) in the poll for similar confidence levels.

Traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses are organized for efficiency. Or consistency. But not joy. Joy comes from surprise and connection and humanity and transparency and new…If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low. – Seth Godin

There are several possible reasons consumers are more confident in small business than big business. “Because they are more likely to be run or owned by citizens in local communities, they are often seen as more in tune with the needs of local communities than are larger corporations that must pay attention to the decisions of a potentially far-away management structure. And, small businesses are often called the "lifeblood" of the U.S. economy…” explains Andrew Dugan of Gallup.

If you are a small business, you rank second only to the military in consumer confidence. So what can you do to build upon and grow that consumer trust?

Based on best practices we have seen with our small business customers (and within our own business), here are a few tips:

  • Deliver on your promises. Do what you say you will you, when you say you will do it.
  • Anticipate problems before they occur. Be proactive and know how your product or service will be used by your customer so you can anticipate any potential issues your customer may encounter and help him/her to avoid them.
  • Be honest. If you make a mistake, admit it and fix it. Nobody is perfect and customers will appreciate your transparency if you work quickly to address any issues.
  • Create a customer-first culture within your organization. If the people you serve are the #1 priority with every employee, your customers will feel it and will have higher loyalty to your business.
  • Be competent. Take the time to understand your products/services, industry trends, and how they affect your customers. Train your employees so they can have intelligent dialogues with customers.
  • Know your customers. Meet with your customers in-person and understand their business goals so you can be a better resource to them.
  • Continually solicit feedback. Make it easy for customers to provide both positive and negative feedback and have a plan to use that information (ex. how you handle an unhappy customer, getting a testimonial from a happy customer).

The good news is that it doesn’t need to take a big advertising budget or customer entertainment fund to gain consumer trust. In fact, a company-wide commitment to honesty and integrity will probably gain you a deeper trust and more rewarding relationships with your customers. Marjorie Adams in Forbes sums it up well: “Organizations with great customer relationships are able to grow their businesses without gimmicks, fee cuts or special treatment. You have to be good at what you do, of course, but having a truly successful business is based on one simple concept: trust… With trust, you’ll have customers (or clients) for life. Without trust, you may as well pack up and go home.”